Cardinal Dinardo, at Center of Clergy Abuse Crisis, Accused of Mishandling Cases in Iowa and Texas
By Lee Rood
Des Moines Register
September 27, 2018
A U.S. cardinal at the center of the Vatican’s response to the sex abuse crisis besetting the Catholic church is being accused this month by clergy abuse survivors of mishandling cases in Iowa and Texas.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, led a delegation of Catholic leaders this month to meet with Pope Francis about the crisis.
In public remarks, DiNardo blamed the "moral catastrophe" on "the failure of episcopal leadership."
"The result was that scores of beloved children of God were abandoned to face an abuse of power alone," DiNardo wrote.
But one Iowa abuse survivor told Reader's Watchdog that DiNardo is guilty of the same leadership failures.
|Pope Francis kisses a baby as he arrives in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican for his weekly general audience, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018. (Photo: Alessandra Tarantino / AP)|
Daniel Nash, a Jefferson, Iowa, native now living in Ithaca, New York, told Reader's Watchdog that DiNardo has failed to stop or defrock priests who have faced multiple allegations of abuse — starting with his early days as a bishop in Sioux City, Iowa, all the way to his present work as a top church leader in Texas.
In 2002, Nash told the Register he was molested at least 30 times when the Rev. George McFadden served at St. Joseph Parish in Jefferson from 1969 to 1972.
McFadden served in Jefferson and four other western Iowa parishes from 1953 to 1992. He was accused of abuse by dozens of victims, McFadden was never defrocked.
McFadden admitted committing "harmful acts," but he never made a public apology. He continued to receive a pension and to celebrate Mass daily in Sioux City’s largest church after he retired in 1991.
"The people of Jefferson still have not forgotten DiNardo lying to them there,” said Nash, now 60.
Michael Ellwanger, an attorney whose firm has represented the Sioux City diocese in clergy abuse cases since 2002, said McFadden was relieved of parish duty in 1998, before DiNardo becoming bishop in Sioux City.
DiNardo acknowledged that it was a mistake allowing McFadden to perform some “limited functions” after his retirement.
"Bishop DiNardo did subsequently decree that McFadden's faculties as a priest be terminated," Ellwanger wrote in a statement.
After McFadden’s faculties were removed, he moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to be with his sister. He is now 93.
Church officials acknowledged paying for roughly $3,200 in counseling for Nash and other costs for him after he first contacted them in 1996.
Later, they stopped paying Nash after church officials said he refused to provide them with his medical records.
DiNardo led the Sioux City diocese in 2002 when it acknowledged for the first time paying multiple out-of-court settlements related to McFadden’s abuse.
Thirty-nine people ultimately filed suit or made claims against McFadden and the Diocese of Sioux City.
"The total amount of settlements was approximately $3.9 million," Ellwanger said. "The last settlement was in 2008. As far as Dan Nash specifically, a settlement was reached with him for $150,000.”
Nash noted that McFadden also was moved to new parishes after abuse claims surfaced against him, and he was allowed to remain active in the church after he was asked to resign in 1991.
"Sending McFadden to Fort Wayne is just like everything else the Catholic church has been doing," Nash said, "moving people around so you can’t get a finger on what’s going on."
DiNardo was named co-adjutor bishop in Galveston-Houston in January 2004 and took over leadership of that archdiocese in early 2006.
"In my opinion, Bishop DiNardo has never 'mishandled' allegations of abuse," Ellwanger said. "One thing that one should perhaps realize is that the first time the diocese would hear of a particular allegation is when a lawsuit was filed. Virtually all of these victims were represented by legal counsel. There really was not much opportunity for the bishop to have any contact with victims while a lawsuit was pending.”
While DiNardo was at the Vatican this month, two other sex abuse victims in Texas told the Associated Press that DiNardo failed to take action to stop a priest who abused them.
Both made allegations against the Rev. Manuel LaRosa-Lopez, although those allegations were 17 years apart.
Both met with DiNardo, who leads the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, to discuss the abuse they suffered. One said DiNardo promised in a meeting that LaRosa-Lopez would be removed from any contact with children.
In fact, LaRosa-Lopez was moved 70 miles away and continued in active ministry.
LaRosa-Lopez, 60, was arrested Sept. 11. He is pastor at St. John Fisher Catholic Church in Richmond and the archdiocese’s episcopal vicar for Hispanics, according to the Associated Press.
In 2007, DiNardo found credible allegations of abuse committed by the Rev. Stephen Horn, a priest who served the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston for almost 35 years, between 1989 and 1993.
By then, U.S. bishops repeatedly had pledged to act quickly and openly with credible sex abuse allegations.
DiNardo suspended Horn. But the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a national support organization based in St. Louis, criticized DiNardo for keeping secret the allegation and his determination from parishioners, police and the public for two months.
That delay occurred in the weeks before the pope announced DiNardo would be named a cardinal in October 2007.
In July of this year, Pope Francis removed Cardinal Theodore McCarrick after church investigators ruled as credible an allegation that McCarrick groped a teenage altar boy in the 1970s. Several former seminarians and priests have reported they have been abused or harassed by McCarrick as adults.
DiNardo called in August for a “prompt and thorough examination” of questions surrounding McCarrick.
In August, a grand jury report found Roman Catholic leaders in Pennsylvania had been covering up child sex abuse committed by more than 300 priests over seven decades. DiNardo said the findings amounted to a "moral catastrophe."
In an 11-page written statement, DiNardo has also raised questions about the conduct and appointment of several U.S. cardinals and bishops, including Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, and Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, archbishop emeritus of Baltimore.
Archbishop Carlo Mario Vigano claimed that Pope Francis knew about allegations against Archbishop McCarrick and reinstated him in ministry after Benedict XVI had imposed sanctions on him.
DiNardo said Archbishop Vigano’s letter brought focus and urgency to the need for an “examination into how the grave moral failings of a brother bishop could have been tolerated for so long and proven no impediment to his advancement.”
DiNardo has been drafting a plan to better combat clergy sex abuse at a general assembly of bishops in November.
The initiatives include establishing a code of conduct and a confidential hotline — to be run by a third party — to receive complaints of sexual misconduct by bishops, and relay such complaints to appropriate church and civil authorities.
Critics have said they need to go further, allowing outside investigators full access to church sex-abuse records and by supporting changes to statute-of-limitation laws so that more cases of long-ago sex abuse can be addressed in court.
Lee Rood's Reader's Watchdog column helps Iowans get answers and accountability from public officials, the justice system, businesses and nonprofits. Contact her at email@example.com , 515-284-8549, on Twitter @leerood, or at facebook.com/readerswatchdog.